Being a healthy writer means being a pain-free writer. When working with writers, I frequently see three pain points that can largely be attributed to too much time at the computer. I call them the trifecta of writer’s pain: neck pain, headaches, and carpal tunnel. Over the next three months, I’ll be talking about each of these areas and providing you with specific exercises you can do to reduce or eliminate that pain. This month is the neck and shoulders.

Relax your shoulders and let them drop. Did they actually drop? If so, then you were carrying around excess tension in your neck and shoulders. Holding your shoulders up around your ears doesn’t make the screen any easier to read nor does it add any value to your computer-based activities. Plus, it’s a habit that can be difficult to break.

If you regularly have pain in your neck and the tops of your shoulders, you likely hold excess tension there—whether your shoulders dropped in that last experiment or not.

One of my favorite exercises to get rid this pain is something called the Neck Figure 8. For many of my clients who work at a computer all day, it quickly becomes their “happy drill.” However, just because something works for one person, doesn’t mean it works for another. Note: If this drill exacerbates any pain, STOP. Try doing it slower or with smaller movements. If that still doesn’t work, STOP. You may have a larger health issue you need to address.

– Sit nice and tall in your chair—think about pushing the crown of your head up towards the ceiling.

– Rub lightly on the neck all the way from the base of the skull to the large bone at the base of the neck. This entire distance is your neck, and all of it should be moving while you do this exercise.

– Close your eyes. This can be done with your eyes open as well, but because you will be moving your head and neck through a wide range of motions, it can sometimes make people dizzy, so it’s best to start with your eyes closed.

– Now, visualize leading with the chin through an infinity symbol (or an 8 turned on its side). The intersection of the circles is where your chin is when you are sitting up straight and tall.

– Slowly start on the path you have previously visualized. It should take you about 15 seconds to complete one repetition. Keep going until you’ve done 3 repetitions in that same direction.

– Repeat in the opposite direction—another three repetitions.

That’s it! Doing the drill will probably take less time than it took to read the instructions. Repeat up to three times a day, or whenever you feel tightness in that area.

Troubleshooting: If you found that exercise particularly difficult or awkward, you aren’t alone. Simplify the exercise by slowing it down (yes, even more).

Let me know how this goes for you, and next month we’ll talk about the second area in the trifecta of writer’s pain: the headache.

Jen Waak is a Seattle-based movement coach who uses a system that combines eastern philosophy with western medicine to reprogram the nervous system and get people out of pain, moving better, and feeling younger.


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  1. […] or anyone who spends their days in front a computer, then pop on over to WriteOn! Online to read my most recent column on neck and shoulder pain. It’s also the first in a three-part series on what I call the […]

  2. […] I began a three-part series on how writers can address problem pain-areas. I explained a simple neck-drill that works WONDERS for eliminating neck and shoulder pain. Now it’s time to address the […]

  3. […] can address problem pain areas. I explained a simple neck-drill that works wonders for eliminating neck and shoulder pain. Now it‚Äôs time to address the second in the trifecta of writers‚Äô pain woes: The Headache. […]

  4. […] August, I wrote about two components trifecta of writer‚Äôs pain: I taught the Neck Figure 8 for neck and shoulder pain and two different drills for relieving headaches. This month, we are going to travel down the arms […]


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